Funding the future

All the signs are pointing towards a creative boom in Scottish filmmaking. Alan Morrison hears about the Scottish Film Production Fund’s input from its Director, Eddie Dick.

In a country where there‘s as much technical and artistic talent as there is heather on the hills. it‘s not really surprising that Scotland‘s films are honoured the world over. A high profile BAFTA is nice and an Oscar is a special treat. but what‘s really encouraging about the splash Scottish films are making in 1995‘s cinematic waters is the commercial success and enthusiastic word-of—mouth they’re generating.

Eddie Dick, Director of the Scottish Film Production Fund, is also taking a practical view of the festivities. The Academy Award for Franz Kafka 's It 's A Wonderful Life underlines the wisdom of recently extending the life of the Tartan Shorts scheme for at least another three years. Meanwhile, the Best British Film BAFTA won by Shallow Grave justifies the SFPF‘s dual interest in the project - it supplied script development money and, as administrators of the Glasgow Film Fund, offered the percentage of the total budget that guaranteed the film would be shot in Scotland. The resulting deal means that a portion of the millions of dollars, pounds, francs, whatever. that Shallow Grave has pulled in at the box office comes back home to be added to the Scottish production pot.

‘Last year. in production terms, was a fallow


Easterhouse: one of three features with SFPF funding shooting

this year period.‘ explains Dick. ‘a breathing space between the pilot phase ofthe Glasgow Film Fund and the new phase which happens to have three films in it.‘ The three films in question are David Hayman‘s thriller The Near Room. which stars Adrian Dunbar and wrapped last month; Gillies and Billy MacKinnon‘s take on growing up in the 60s in Easter/rouse. which is currently shooting and also marks BBC Scotland’s first venture in feature film funding. and Ken Loaeh‘s Carla '3‘ Song. which starts filming in September.

‘The GFF‘s level of investment [roughly £150,000 per film] would find it difficult to sustain three films in any one year.‘ continues Dick. ‘because currently there just isn‘t the money there.‘ The Shallow Grave returns will give the Fund an immediate boost, although this should be seen as a welcome freak: future projects are likely to recoup investment at a slower and possibly lower level. with television and video sales becoming the key factor in profitability.

Glasgow‘s contribution of local, regional and European public money to film production has had noticeable spin-off benefits for the city's economy in

terms of wages. catering. accommodation, etc. The Scottish Film Production Fund now has moves afoot to bring Edinburgh and lnvemess into a similar scheme. under the working title of Scottish Film Finance. ‘lt‘s on that basis that we would try to bring in private finance as well.‘ says Dick. ‘Once we get to that phase. you could be talking about something which becomes sustainable.‘ An additional, as yet imponderable factor. is the one-off funding that may come from the National Lottery.

‘To get a sustainable industry, the target. excluding the Rob Roys and the Brave/leans because that‘s always going to be subject to fashion and fluctuation in the relationship between the dollar and the pound is a movie a month going into production,’ Dick reckons. ‘Those twelve movies are going to be across a range of budget levels, so you’re looking at around £30 million in terms of production finance, and we

‘Three shorts a year and a feature every now and then is great, but it’s not enough. We’re in a serious business here.’

need to put in 15—25 per cent of that -— £4—7 million annually. We‘re not going to get that overnight, but if we don‘t aspire to that, we’re kidding ourselves on. Three shorts a year and a feature every now and then is great, but it‘s not enough. We‘re in a serious business here.‘

All this talk of features doesn't mean that the SFPF is about to abandon its commitment to new talent. On the contrary, a scheme is about to be launched that will go some way towards bridging the gap between the ‘aecess level’ First Reels and the ‘experience necessary‘ Tartan Shorts. As yet unnamed, the scheme (also supported by British Screen and Scottish Television) will fund a handful of five- rninute. 16mm pieces, from any genre, to a maximum of £23,000. Aiming for wilder and more ambitious submissions than Tartan Shorts, this could provide the vital second calling card that young filmmakers need when touting a feature to film companies. And maybe it’s those as-yet-unthought-of features that will provide the base for a continually rolling production slate in Scotland.

marm— Love hurts

Back in August, a rare late-night screening of independent British movie Boy Meets Girl was one of the first events to sell out at the llrambuie Edinburgh Film Festival. At the time, it looked likely that the film was doomed never to escape the festival circuit, as James Fennan, head of the British Board of Film Classification, seemed to have taken a strong personal dislike to the very idea of Boy Meets Girl. llow, however, Boy Meets Girl does indeed have a certificate, and has a couple of Scottish dates coming up, although a video release is still extremely unlikely.

‘it was reain because we were


accepted at festivals like Edinburgh and in places like Vienna and Portugal that we continued to build up support,’ says producer Chris Bead. ‘Through our persistence and the fact that we had critical backing, James Ferrnan couldn’t say no to the film anymore.’ Boy Meets Girl raises all sorts of questions about sexual power-plays and a cinema audience’s undeniable appetite for cruelty. In the film, a casual pick-up in a bar backfires for our hero as he is drugged and tortured by a sadistic woman who fllms every detail of his pain for future viewing. And yet it’s not without a strange, disturbing humour, with captions before each segment that give the subsequent action an uneasy, ironic

‘We.could never classify what genre the film was in,’ continues llead, ‘so we came up with our own term - art

Boy Meets Girl: ‘strange. distuhing lurmour’

exploitation. It goes across both boundaries. We wanted to present a film that would attract people who like to see nasty horror or violent films, but we always put information within the dialogue to make people question what they’re watching and why they’re watching it.’

The Edinburgh Filmhouse screenings place Boy Meets Girl within the ongoing ‘llesperately Seeking Vengeance’ female revenge season and accompanying lectures: next month at the Glasgow Film Theatre, director Bay Brady will be on hand to discuss the film. It’s the kind of movie that demands a platform for arguneot. (Alan Morrison)

Boy Meets Girl plays the Edinburgh Filmhouse on Tuesday 30 and Wednesday 31 May.

The List 19 May-l Jun 199517